Story by SGT Christopher Hernandez on 11/28/2018FORT BLISS, Texas In a dimly-lit classroom of Hope Chapel, 21 Army Reserve Soldiers and civilians from the 210th Regional Support Group Mobilization and Deployment Brigade/Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, listen attentively to the instructor of the financial course. This day was particularly significant, as the students received their graduation certificates afterward to signify their course completion.
Capt. Farlin Reynoso, chaplain for the 210th RSG/MaD Brigade, served as the facilitator for the Financial Peace University (Military Edition) course. According to Reynoso, FPU (ME) is a nine-week course originally created about 25 years ago by renowned financial expert Dave Ramsey.
"It's so good that the military has been using it for at least 15 to 20 years," said Reynoso. "The chaplains are usually the main ones who facilitate these courses to the troops, (whether) it's Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. And it's covered by the Army, so Soldiers don't have to pay a dime."
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Reynoso said that his first experience with FPU (ME) dates back to an overseas deployment in 2010.
"When I was a platoon leader, I stopped by a chapel in Kuwait and I saw the book there for free," Reynoso said. "That was the time that when I got the information, I aimed my entire life toward those financial goals. Personally, just putting this financial principle into practice and seeing the change in my lifeit made a huge impact, and it motivated me to teach this class."
Sgt. Kristina Larson, noncommissioned officer in charge of the tactical operations center for the 210th RSG/MaD Brigade operations section, said that the course effectively taught principles of financial management and debt management in a step-by-step format.
"Financial Peace University teaches you that you don't need credit, credit cards, and you don't need to have a car payment," Larson said. "Everybody in America is so stuck on this idea that we should always have a car payment, or that we will always be in debt in some way. But this really changes the way that you think about it, and then makes you realize that you can live debt-free, without a car payment, without credit cards, and even live without a house payment. It really makes it feasible for normal, simple people to have more than we think we can."
Another concept of FPU (ME) is to allocate funds by identifying its intended use, nullifying the risk of wasteful spending and misapplication.
"They teach you that you have to name every dollar, because when there isn't a name to your money, you tend to spend it on stuff that you don't have to," said Staff Sgt. Eduardo Vargas, transportation NCO for the 210th RSG/MaD Brigade logistics section. "By putting a name to every dollar, you force yourself to use it for that particular reason. You learn how to manage your debt, and how it commit to pay off your debt."
For Larson, the course has completely changed her financial outlook and she has benefitted greatly from the experience.
"The biggest thing that I gained is how I look at money now," Larson said. "When I started the class, I had nine credit cards and now I have paid off and closed all but one right now. I also had about almost $21,000 in debt between all of my credit cards and my vehicle payment. In nine weeks, I paid off almost $6,000 of that amount."
According to Reynoso, perhaps the best incentive to teach and facilitate FPU (ME) is due to his own personal satisfaction from providing the course.
"Every time I do this course, it gets me even more motivated and helps me understand better that this thing really works," Reynoso said. "It motivates to see how people in nine weeks can change so much. This thing really works, as you can see it in the people's faces and their stress levels going down. You can see that they're happy."
Another iteration of the FPU (ME) course is slated for January 2019 to other personnel in the 210th RSG/MaD Brigade.
As for the Soldiers and civilians who have recently graduated last week's class, many have expressed their gratefulness for Reynoso's tutelage and wisdom.
"I thank the chaplain for his assistance in this course," Vargas said. "He did an excellent job guiding us through the class. If it's working for him, then it will work for us."